Dog Ownership Calculator ‐ Find Out if You Can Afford a Dog

Cost to Own a Dog

Interested in becoming a dog owner? Make sure you punch in the numbers before you bring a furry pal home. Many dog owners vastly underestimate the financial cost of owning a dog, especially when they don't budget for the many hidden dog ownership costs.

The following calculator is designed to provide a very rough estimate of how much it costs to own a dog. The actual cost may change based on factors such as location and choice of dog breed.

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Rough Estimate of Dog Ownership



The cost of dog ownership can be categorized in two ways: acquisition and maintenance. Acquisition would refer to one-time costs that you'll need to pay when you get the dog. Maintenance would refer to recurring costs that you'll need to pay keep your dog in good shape.

Dog Acquisition Costs

One-Time Dog Costs

Adoption vs. Purchasing

The first expense you'll have to pay is the fee for purchasing or adopting a dog. Adopting should be the first route you should consider unless you are dead set on getting a dog of a certain breed.

From a financial standpoint, adopting can lift a huge burden off a dog owner's shoulder. Many factors will dictate the final adoption fee but it's unlikely for it to be more than a few hundred dollars. A lot of adoption centers also vaccinate, neuter/spay, and microchip their dogs so you may save on those fees as well.

Purchasing, on the other hand, can cost more than a thousand dollars. It may also take a long time to find a dog you like from a responsible breeder. These breeders take great care of their dogs and will also do background checks to make sure prospective customers are fit to take care of a dog.


This is optional but many would agree that the benefits outweigh the risks of neutering or spaying your dog. For example, neutering can prevent the development of health conditions like testicular tumors. It can also reduce the frequency of unwanted behaviors such as urine marking and mounting.

Neutering or spaying will typically cost anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars. There are two places where you can get this treatment done, at a regular animal clinic or at a low-cost spay/neutering clinic.

You may find that there is a big difference in cost between regular clinics and spay/neutering clinics. The difference isn't necessarily due to the experience of the vets. There are other factors involved such as the amount of resource dedicated to the dog patient outside of the actual surgery, and the amount of support low-cost clinics receive through sponsors and donations.

Neutering/spaying surgeries can lead to complications if they aren't done in the right circumstances so make sure you consult with the vet before you proceed.


Vaccinations are essential for maintaining the long-term health of your dog because they prepare the dog's immune system against disease-causing organisms. For dogs, the core vaccines include parvovirus, distemper, rabies, and canine hepatitis.

There are two common acronyms you may come across. DAPP stands for distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. DHPP stands for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

The total cost of the core vaccines will be somewhere in the region of $100. Vaccines like DAPP are typically administered multiple times over the course of several weeks and costs about $20 to $30 per administration. Rabies vaccination can be administered once a year for a cost of $10-$15 per administration. Check with your vet to confirm what vaccinations your dog will need.

Equipment and Dog Care Items

You will need to buy some dog equipment and toys to prepare your dog for her new home. At minimum, you should be looking to get the following items:

Dog Training Classes

It's worthwhile to pay for some training classes if this will be the first time you'll own a dog. The cost of training will depend on location, type of training, and whether you opt for group or private classes.

The two types of classes you'll most likely opt for are obedience and behavioral classes. Obedience classes are typically designed to teach your dog foundational skills and commands, such as sit and come. Behavioral classes are designed to resolve specific behaviors such as excessive barking, excessive chewing, and dog-to-dog aggression.

The cheapest dog training classes will run in a group setting and teach the most basic skills. The fee will increase by a few hundred dollars if you want your dog to be taught more advanced skills or if you want a private trainer for your dog.

Other One-time Fees

In addition to the above, you should also set aside some money for other potential one-time expenses such as micro-chipping and pet ownership fees. This is especially important for people who live in apartments. Check your lease document and confirm whether you need to pay a fee for keeping a pet.

Dog Maintenance Costs

Recurring Dog Costs

It's now time to look at the recurring monthly fees. Again, many of these fees will vary based on factors like location, dog breed, and product quality.

Dog Food

The cost of dog food will depend on a number of factors such as the type of dog food, the size of your dog, and your dog's activity level.

Food type: there are two decisions you need to make. First, are you going to feed your dog premium or basic dog food? Second, are you going to feed your dog dry food, wet food, or a mix of both? What you feed your dog will influence how she looks, feels, and acts. For example, dogs that are fed a low-quality diet tend to smell a lot more than dogs that are provided a well-balanced diet.

Dog size: this should be considered alongside other factors such as the dog's activity level. Medium-sized dogs may not necssarily need more food than small-sized dogs if their activity level is much lower. The food packaging guideline isn't the gospel. Adjust the quantity based on your dog's lifestyle.

Pet Insurance

It may seem like a big waste of money but there may come a time when you are thankful for getting pet insurance. All dogs come with inherent health risks and the cost for treating them can reach hundreds or thousands of dollars. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance association, the average monthly premium in the US is about $45.

Shop around different pet insurance providers and have a full understand of what the insurance covers before you sign up for one. If you don't opt for insurance then make sure you set aside some fund every month in case your pet has an emergency.

Flea/Tick Control

Fleas and ticks aren't just a big nuisance. They also carry diseases that can cause your pet serious health problems. Pest control for dogs come in several forms. Pills, spot-on treatments, and flea collars are some common choices. Consult with your vet to decide which treatment would be best for your dog.

Heartworm Prevention

Dogs are susceptible to heartworm disease, which can cost $1,000 or more to treat. You'll want to discuss with your vet the pros and cons of putting your dog on heartworm preventive medications. If you live in an area that has a lot of mosquitoes then it may be something that you will want to seriously consider.

Heartworm preventives like Heartgard Plus typically cost less than $20 a month. They also require a prescription to obtain.

Dog Grooming

Paying for grooming service isn't necessary if you are already comfortable with grooming the dog by yourself. Grooming may entail a number of different activities such as brushing the dog's coat, shampooing and rinsing the dog, and clipping the dog's nails.

The only grooming you may want to pay for is the occasional hair trimming and the brushing of a dog's undercoat (which may require more precision). Unless you have a high-maintenance dog, you can expect to pay around $50 for standard grooming services (more if you live in an expensive city).

Dog Walking & Boarding

Dog owners who work long hours should consider hiring a dog walker to keep their dog's health in check. Fortunately, there are some great apps in the market that allow you to easily find reputable dog walkers, sitters, and boarding services in the area.

According to sites like Angie's List and Thumbtack, you can expect to pay from around $15 to $45 per dog walk. The cost will depend on the duration of the walk, the frequency, and the location. Expect to pay even more in cities like NYC where dog walkers and sitters are in high demand.